Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Spirit and Tech

Came to work to see a huge crane next to the clock tower of the church near where I work (L'Église St-Denis).

It turns out the Parish is renting out the space for some new Videotron cell towers. I'm glad to see the Parish finally getting itself together and finding ways to make some money from all the property they own.

My contact with the Parish told me that the towers shouldn't interfere with the aesthetics of the clock. You can be the judge yourself. They aren't too bad but they aren't helping anything either.



What I was really hoping, though, was that they were going to fix the clock mechanism, put the hands back and get the clock working again. That would really be excellent. It's such a shame that we have these beautiful clocks all over the city and none of them are operational. I'm sure it's quite expensive to get them repaired and not cheap to run them, but it kind of demonstrates how practicality and actual community service does not seem to be the priority for the Catholic Church (and when I say that, I mean the organization and its leaders). The people that run these churches are so out of touch with the times, so stuck in their ways. I'm sure there are some here and there that are a little more progressive and they still do offer a community for the older people in the community. But they are slowly starving themselves with their inability to be flexible and move with the changes going on around them.

Another great example of this is the church on St. Dominique. This side road separates it from a very nice little park, where Santa stays during the xmas season, films are shot and people go and have lunch. The new administration in the Plateau Mile-End borough are on an excellent traffic-calming campaign and they decided to shut St. Dominique down between St. Joseph and Laurier, the one-block stretch that separates the park from the front doors of the Church. They closed the street and painted the surface an ugly green to symbolize that it is no longer for cars. Next summer they are going to tear up the road and extend the park right up to the front stairs of this beautiful old church. What's more, every Thursday there is going to be a farmer's market there, with local produce and some entertainment for the entire summer.

So when I go there last Thursday to check it out, guess what? The Parish is holding a big protest on their front stairs! They (or at least this subset of the Parish and others) were against the road being closed. I tried to talk to one bitter old man who simply waved his hand at the farmer's market and said disgustedly "C'est un dépotoir. C'est un dépotoir!" (it's a dump, it's a dump). It's rare that I am the one being rational and I told him that if he wasn't going to be so, I didn't want to talk to him. I found another dude who was much more rational and pleasant. He was a businessman who had an office just on the other side of St. Joseph for over 30 years and he was pissed about losing the parking place. After some discussion, we politely agreed that we had opposing viewpoints but mutually respected that we had the right to speak out about it. I didn't really get a solid answer out of him about what the complaint of the church was. I would have thought it would be a great opportunity to expose some younger people to their values, maybe throw open the church doors and let people see the inside, with a donation jar nearby. The interiors of these churches are beautiful and a rich part of Quebec's architectural heritage.

What was interesting to note was the cultural divide. Everyone on the church steps were older, true middle and working-class french Montrealers from when the Plateau was a much poorer place. Everyone on the farmer's market side were young hipsters, with a pretty even mix of french and english. I respect the former group and believe they have a strong role in the community here. Mile End would be a real nightmare with only hipsters. It's bad enough as it is right now. I wish there was a way that the two groups could integrate better and it just seems a shame that the Parish has decided to set itself against the carless future that is coming (or at least car-fewer future).

No comments: